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NT Textual Criticism: Mistakes and Myths

November 10, 2019

A new multi-author book sets out to correct and clarify numerous mistakes, myths, and mis-uses of New Testament textual criticism:  Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, eds. Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry (InterVarsity Press, 2019).  The publisher’s web catalog entry here.

The primary intended readership seems to be earnest but ill-informed Christian apologists, who rely too much on outdated or simply incorrect information in their attempts to defend Christian faith and the integrity of the New Testament writings.  Hixson and Gurry are not, however, critical of this intent in principle, but instead wish to inform it with solid scholarly data.  After all, the easiest way to lose an argument is to offer a weak or incorrect claim.

The table of contents reflects the range of subjects addressed, and all the chapters are written by younger scholars who have specialized in the relevant data.

1. Introduction (Peter J. Gurry and Elijah Hixson)
2. Myths about Autographs: What They Were and How Long They May Have Survived (Timothy N. Mitchell)
3. Math Myths: How Many Manuscripts We Have and Why More Isn’t Always Better (Jacob W. Peterson)
4. Myths about Classical Literature: Responsibly Comparing the New Testament to Ancient Works (James B. Prothro)
5. Dating Myths, Part One: How We Determine the Ages of Manuscripts (Elijah Hixson)
6. Dating Myths, Part Two: How Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts (Gregory R. Lanier)
7. Myths About Copyists: The Scribes Who Copied Our Earliest Manuscripts (Zachary J. Cole)
8. Myths About Copying: The Mistakes and Corrections Scribes Made (Peter Malik)
9. Myths About Transmission: The Text of Philemon from Beginning to End (S. Matthew Solomon)
10. Myths About Variants: Why Most Variants Are Insignificant and Why Some Can’t Be Ignored (Peter J. Gurry)
11. Myths About Orthodox Corruption: Were Scribes Influenced by Theology, and How Can We Tell? (Robert D. Marcello)
12. Myths About Patristics: What the Church Fathers Thought About Textual Variation (Andrew Blaski)
13. Myths About Canon: What the Codex Can and Can’t Tell Us (John D. Meade)
14. Myths About Early Translations: Their Number, Importance, and Limitations (Jeremiah Coogan)
15. Myths About Modern Translations: Variants, Verdicts, and Versions (Edgar Battad Ebojo)
List of Contributors
Image Credits
Name Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index
Ancient Writings Index
Manuscript Index

But the range of readers who can profit from the book is considerably wider than Christian apologists.  Students, even scholars, and interested general readers will learn lots of up to date, balanced, and well-supported information.

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  1. Mark Snell permalink

    I’m not sure if this is off-topic, but I have run across two Ph.D. theses, one by Stephen Carlson discussing the application of cladistics to Galatians and another by Andrew Edmondson investigating the use of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, both applied to help identify initial texts and textual history. Apparently, both methods are derived or adapted from analysis techniques for phylogenetics, the study of relationships between groups of organisms and their evolutionary history.
    Having seen these two methods discussed in Ph.D. theses, I wondered if they have found wider use as tools for textual criticism and, if so, have they been applied usefully to any of the topics discussed in this book?

  2. I really look forward to reading this if reasonably priced, thanks for highlighting it.

  3. I’m currently going through this at the moment (my focus is systematic theology, but it helps to know a thing or two about the Bible as well!) and I’m finding it informative and helpful.

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